Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why I believe in Public Education

4LAKids: Sunday,April 1, 2007 - No foolin'
In This Issue:
Why I Believe in Public Education
….and reason to not believe in much else!
LAUSD HITS NEW LOW ON API: High schools fall 20 points
L.A. UNIFIED REJECTS CHARTER EXPANSION: Despite lawyer's warning, board turns down Green Dot's plans for eight schools.
What can YOU do?

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Why I Believe in Public Education

by Jon Samuels | from the Public Education Network Newsblast

In 1832, Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to assess the notion that our democracy was a beacon for the world. His astute observations remain a classic guide to America’s success.

American prosperity, he concluded, was founded on several conditions unique to this society.

First, we did not let class determine a person’s stature. A ruffian with a good idea and a work ethic could exchange places with a son of wealth who felt innovative thought and labor were beneath a gentleman’s dignity.

Second, movement within the country was unfettered. This lack of internal passports, documents common in eighteenth century Europe, was essential to the vibrancy found in American society. Regardless of their station, Americans could go where opportunity beckoned.

Third, our system of public education, raucous as it was, provided the skills and knowledge that our citizens could employ to take advantage of a classless and mobile society. Unlike old Europe, we did not fear an educated proletariat.

Despite our flawed application of these principles, opportunity, mobility and education remain the pillars supporting American democracy, and education makes the others worthwhile. In the truest sense, we do not pay taxes to support the education of our individual children, we pay taxes to support the role public education plays in civilizing and enriching our society.

Writing today, de Tocqueville might note the erosion of our public schools and the roles played in that by racism, failed discipline, missing parents, rote teaching and testing gone berserk. But, he would be confident in our defense of public education. He would argue that it was not within the American character to shrink in the face of challenge. He would expect that we would tax ourselves sufficiently to provide for the common educational good.

He would not be surprised when we raised the station of our teachers. He would anticipate our solution of the dropout problem and our reinstitution of discipline and mutual respect in our schools. He would expect that we would use tests surgically to expand an improved curriculum.

de Tocqueville loved an America whose citizens cared little for self-pity but cared much about bringing in the harvest.

That is why I support public education for it may well produce our most important harvest.

That is why I do not support any “choice” that would further impoverish our public school system, that, however unintentional, could result in a few fleeing the problems that affect the many, that could create educational slums to warehouse an overwhelmingly poor and minority population. That would not be the America that enthralled de Tocqueville. That might be a fatal harvest.

I am sure that those who disagree with me are acting out of the courage of their convictions. I would ask, however, that they also have the courage of the consequences of their convictions.

I have no children in our schools and I have reached an age when it is tempting to leave the driving to someone else. On the other hand, I remain a passenger on our national bus and I would like to ensure the driver knows the route.

Public education is one of the bedrock guarantees that America will continue down freedom’s road.

Jon Samuels is a Board Member Public Education Partners Aiken, SC [] and a founding partner of Synergem Emergency Services

….and reason to not believe in much else!
4LAKids CANNOT ARGUE with the above and gladly yields the opening soapbox to Mr. Samuels. As we enter the holy week of Eastover (and spring break for the traditionally calendared) let us remember that Revealed Truth illuminates all darkness.

THE API TEST SCORES are in – we track these like the ups-and-downs of the stock and commodities markets. Things are bullish for LAUSD Elementary sector– and for the first time ever, LAUSD Middle Schools. But the Dow Jones average of LA Unified High Schools has fallen by twenty points …and shareholders are looking to hedge their bets in Charter Schools. This would be a humorous analogy if the capital wasn’t young lives. And gentle investor, please remember we are looking at a long term investment strategy — we’re not looking for kids that that do well in school or in tests; we are looking for kids who do well in life.

CHARTER SCHOOLS are all downside-up as the Board of Ed voted thumbs-down on Green Dot’s expansion into Watts, nixing takeover of Locke High School - and yet allowed the questionably performing/politically correct Academia Semillas to continue – in spite of poor performance and some questionable business practices. I am no fan of Green Dot and its CEO/Master-of-the-Education-Universe Steve Barr – but when the Charter Office says there is no data ...but “trust us” Green Dot is doing well – and there is data that says Academia Semillas is doing poorly but the Charter Office says “trust us …they’re doing OK too” – what does it any of it mean? Except perhaps: “Don’t trust the Charter Office” and “Poorly informed officials make poorly informed decisions”.

THE TIMES gets it wrong on class size reduction. Kids walk out because the unions won’t give themselves Cesar Chavez’ birthday off.

And THE LAUSD PAYROLL FIASCO – now news so old that the papers don’t even cover it anymore – continues on while the Board and the Superintendent mull it over in closed session. There are only three things that can be legally discussed in closed session: Real estate. Personnel. Or lawsuits. As they’ve already sold the farm on the paroll program, my money is on the next two. —smf

LAUSD HITS NEW LOW ON API: High schools fall 20 points

by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Already lagging behind their statewide counterparts, Los Angeles Unified high school students took a precipitous plunge on newly released Academic Performance Index scores, dropping 20 points from the previous year.

The LAUSD's elementary and middle school students made steady progress on tests that measure math and English-language skills, but still were well below the statewide averages, according to a California Department of Education report released Tuesday.

In a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where he is lobbying for more federal money for education, Superintendent David Brewer III said the high-school score reflects the stubborn achievement gap between white and minority students.

"Seventy-two percent of our population is Latino and about 8 percent is African-American and nationwide (they) are underperforming in math and science," Brewer said. "That's a reflection of that population."

Brewer also noted that growth of Los Angeles' public elementary schools continues to outpace that of the state, and that middle-school scores rose faster than the state for the first time since the test was implemented.

"That demonstrates that the programs are now taking effect in middle schools, but at the high-school levels we clearly have some tough work to do."

Other Los Angeles Unified officials attributed the decline in high-school scores to changes in how the results were analyzed, noting that science, history and social-science tests were given more weight in calculating the averages.

But that didn't explain why the statewide average rose from 680 to 693 from 2005 to '06, while it dropped from 622 to 602 for high-school students in Los Angeles Unified.

Esther Wong, the district's assistant superintendent of planning, assessment and research, suggested that the drop could be related to the number of new high-school campuses that opened last year.

"They're brand new and haven't had a chance to work with their group of students," Wong said. "And the rigor of the API continues to increase what our students are expected to know and it's getting harder and harder to move up."

Brewer and other Los Angeles Unified officials expressed optimism that students will benefit from the creation of more than 300 "small learning communities" that allow students to receive more personalized attention.

"I think with these scores, it reinforces what we know: we have serious challenges in the secondary level," school board member Monica Garcia said. "These efforts tell the public the school district is aware of the challenges and we're moving forward aggressively."

A total of 115 of the more than 600 Los Angeles Unified schools met or exceeded the state benchmark of 800, up from 96 in the 2005 testing, and from 68 in 2004.

By comparison, about 40 percent of the schools in neighboring Ventura County posted scores of 800 or better, up from 33 percent last year.

"I am confident that the staff, students and parents of our Ventura County schools will continue in their efforts to help all students succeed," said Charles Weis, Ventura County's schools superintendent.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose administration has made education reform its No. 1 goal, said the lagging LAUSD scores affirm the need for change.

"Only with a real sense of urgency and a commitment to excellence and accountability will these low test scores start to improve and our schools start to compete," spokeswoman Janelle Erickson said.


The Academic Performance Index shows how each school performs academically compared with other schools. It is used to determine whether California schools are meeting federal benchmarks set by the No Child Left Behind Act, President George W. Bush's education-reform initiative.

Scores range from 200 to 1,000 points, with 800 being the goal of all schools, as well as for all subgroups within each school, including minority, disabled and disadvantaged students, and English-language learners.

In previous years, target scores for the subgroups were lower because the students were already struggling to achieve proficiency. This year, however, the goals for the subgroups were as rigorous as for the overall student body: 5 percent of the difference between a subgroup's score and the target of 800, with improvement of at least five points each year.

"While our schools are showing steady overall progress, I am deeply concerned that significant gaps exist between the API results for different subgroups of students," state Superintendent Jack O'Connell said.

"I have begun an intensive effort to find ways to close the gap that exists between successful students - who are often white or Asian and financially well off - and struggling students - who are too often poor, Hispanic, African-American, English-learners, or with a disability."

Brewer said he also hopes that No Child Left Behind will be amended to give districts and individual schools more flexibility in meeting the subgroup targets, particularly with English-language learners.

"Children are not machines," he said. "We have to make sure we give them enough time to get up to speed ... without having to call them failures."

OFFICIAL API REPORTS FOR SCHOOLS, DISTRICTS, COUNTIES & THE STATE | This year & prior years | (updated 27Mar’07)


March 31, 2007 — Santa Ana schools deserve a public spanking if, as alleged, they created phantom classes to pull the wool over state officials' eyes. The idea was to make it look as though there were no more than 20 students per teacher in the primary grades so the schools could receive the full $16 million they were entitled to from the state for reducing class size.

As lowdown as such a trick would be, it sheds light on one of the more rigid and expensive regulations governing public education in California. The decade-old class-size reduction program was a poorly planned experiment that is no longer useful. It ought to end, with the state giving the money to local districts to spend in whatever ways will best benefit their students.

California launched its ambitious program for primary grades back when the tech bubble was nourishing state coffers. Costing close to $1.7 billion a year, the program capped kindergarten through third-grade classes at 20 students. For better or worse, education in the state hasn't been the same since.

The reform was begun in an era when many educators believed that if they could get students off to a good start, the rest of the academic years would take care of themselves. The theory has merit, but reality has proved more complicated.

Suddenly, schools needed extra classrooms, so portables took over athletic fields. The program created a huge demand for teachers, triggering an immediate shortage. Schools hired almost anyone who could procure an emergency teaching credential. With so many jobs opening up at better-equipped, affluent schools, many qualified teachers moved to the suburbs.

Beyond that, the rules were rigid. Classes could not go above 20 students, so academically dubious mixed-grade classes began to take care of any overflow. (If there were 18 students in a first-grade class and 22 in a second-grade class, a quick "transfer" could put the ratio back into compliance.) Meanwhile, state funding covered less and less of the cost, and school districts made up the difference by increasing class sizes for older students. The rules have become more flexible, but not enough to meet everyday realities.

There is still no evidence that the multibillion-dollar investment in small primary classes has made more than an incremental difference in achievement. Well-intentioned and popular as it has been, the class-size reduction program represents another restriction on schools that need to be more creative, not less. When state officials bemoan the lack of innovation on the local level, while also requiring public schools to comply with a state Education Code that is measured in feet, not inches, it rings a little hollow.

Instead of dictating how every dollar is spent, the state should allow school districts to use the money from this program as they see fit — and then the state should hold them accountable for their students' achievement. If the districts fail to spend the money wisely, they would face sanctions from the state, possible takeover and a drubbing of the local school board at the next election.

The state's necessary and rightful role in education is to set standards, shape the curriculum, monitor progress and hold schools responsible for performance. If state officials spent less time monitoring the minutiae of the Education Code and more time ensuring that the schools prepare students well, California would be better off.


▲ 4LAKids 2¢ |RE-READ THAT SUBHEAD: Santa Ana schools may be cheating, therefore class size reduction has failed. I know the Times editorial page staff is challenged – but that is a conclusion of absurdist logic worthy of Beckett or Ionesco. Let’s continue our logical deconstruction: “There is still no evidence that the multibillion-dollar investment in small primary classes has made more than an incremental difference in achievement.” What does The Times need for evidence, sworn testimony from The Burning Bush? Michael Rennie arriving in a spaceship?
• Test scores are gospel for bashers of public education. The greatest improvement in California Education in the past decade has occurred in K-3 – in those very 20:1 classrooms the Times would repopulate.
• Performance drops off precipitously when the 20:1 kids move into the 30/35:1 classrooms above 3rd grade.
Believe me, neither phenomena was caused by Open Court, NCLB or standardized testing!

California has almost the highest class sizes in the nation. Without mandatory CSR we would have the world championship! Yes, the law needs tweaking. Yes flexibility and averaging are needed. Yes, mixed grade classes are suboptimal. But to allow school districts to end CSR and implement whatever reform they choose as is proposed would mean the teacher’s unions would pay the money to themselves almost as quickly as the Sacramento politicians would “borrow’ from this new funding “windfall”.

• National PTA (parents+teachers) supports efforts at the federal, state, and local levels to reduce class size in the early grades for the purpose of improving children’s academic achievement.
• The NEA (teachers+administrators+college types) supports a class size of 15 students in regular K-12 programs and even smaller in programs for students with exceptional needs.

There are states and school districts that accomplish this. There is a name for those kinds of schools and programs: they’re called “successful”. If The Times wants us to be like them, we have to do like them. —smf

THE NEA ON CLASS SIZE – includes the evidence The Times can’t find!

L.A. UNIFIED REJECTS CHARTER EXPANSION: Despite lawyer's warning, board turns down Green Dot's plans for eight schools.

By Joel Rubin and Adrian G. Uribarri, LA Times Staff Writers

March 30, 2007 — A split Los Angeles Board of Education on Thursday rejected the expansion plans of one of the city's leading charter school operators — a move that almost certainly violates state law and firmly sets back future collaboration between the charter group and the school district.

The unexpected 3-3 vote by the Los Angeles Unified School District board defeated Green Dot Public Schools' application for eight new charters. The group had planned to use several of the charter licenses to open new schools this fall in the Watts neighborhood around Locke High School — one of the city's worst. The board's seventh member, David Tokofsky, recused himself because he works for Green Dot.

Board members and teachers union allies Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, Jon Lauritzen and Julie Korenstein voted against the charters, saying that despite the promising results Green Dot has produced at its other charters, they remain skeptical of the group's reform model.

Their vote enraged Green Dot founder Steve Barr, who said it essentially ended months of talks between him, Supt. David L. Brewer and board President Marlene Canter aimed at a joint reform plan for Locke.

"There is nothing to collaborate on … now we're outsiders," Barr said. "We've spent hours and days and nights trying to collaborate…. I really have a hard time finding any reason to continue talking with this district."

Charters are publicly financed, independently run schools that are freed from many of the restrictions imposed on traditional schools in exchange for improving student performance.

Barr is the largest charter operator in Los Angeles and has won strong support from such wealthy philanthropists as Eli Broad. He has clashed in the past with district officials over his aggressive push to expand.

The rejection also infuriated board member Mike Lansing, who represents Watts voters and has pushed unsuccessfully for dramatic reforms there. Lansing accused his colleagues of bending to the wishes of the influential United Teachers Los Angeles, which largely opposes the charter movement.

"It's really disappointing that we keep talking about wanting to do what's best for children first, when without a doubt that vote was about a teachers union and three board members not having the backbone to stand up and do the right thing for kids over their ties to the union," Lansing said after the vote.

In their recent reelection bids, Poindexter LaMotte and Lauritzen relied almost entirely on a total of about $1 million in union contributions. Korenstein has enjoyed similar support in the past.

Korenstein and an aide to Lauritzen said the votes were based largely on concerns about Green Dot's academic record and more generally about the financial toll if students — and the state funding that follows them — leave the district for charters. Poindexter LaMotte could not be reached for comment.

UTLA President A.J. Duffy denied that he or other union leaders pressured board members to vote against Green Dot. In the past, Duffy has been sharply critical of Green Dot, making unsubstantiated claims that they handpick students to enroll and overwork teachers.

Before the vote, a senior district lawyer and the director of L.A. Unified's charter office, Gregory McNair, repeatedly counseled the board to approve the charters. State law is clear, they said, that a school board can reject charters only if they fail to meet one of several criteria. Green Dot, the officials said, met all the criteria.

Barr said he would appeal the board's decision to county education officials who could approve his charter plan. He pledged to open two charters that were previously approved near Locke and said he would continue to push to open others.

Parents and students from the impoverished, gang-ridden community also implored the board to approve the charters, saying they were desperate for an alternative to the low-performing, often unsafe district middle and high schools in the area. One middle school student tearfully recounted how she often is beaten up at school by gang members but refuses to fight back out of fear that she will be punished.

The board dealt with another potential controversy Thursday when it voted to renew an El Sereno school's charter less than three weeks after district staff advised against doing so.

In a March 13 report on Academia Semillas del Pueblo, the staff cited low test scores, unconventional instruction and potentially conflicting school governance. About two weeks later, facing growing political pressure from former City Councilman Richard Alatorre, former Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg and others, the staff changed course.

McNair said his staff reversed its recommendation on Semillas in light of new details that reflected more favorably on the school's progress since it opened five years ago. He said the school's multilingual curriculum, which includes Spanish, English, Mandarin and Nahuatl-Mexicano, can't be judged against existing research and needs more than the board's initial five-year certification to show results.

"This is a seven- or eight-year program," McNair said. "I think we've reached an agreement that allows them to carry out their program to fruition. Now, we want to see some improvements."

Under the five-year renewal conditions, Semillas must meet benchmarks that for three years would place it at least at the median of comparable schools in terms of state and national standards. Data show Semillas ranks lowest among similar schools.

Lansing, who voted not to renew the Semillas charter, said he was puzzled by how the staff switched its recommendation despite evidence of poor performance.

The 5-2 decision came after more than several hundred school supporters marched downtown from the Olvera Street plaza to the district headquarters.

Heath St. John, a Semillas teacher and parent, said opposition to the school was based on selective standards.

"Some people don't understand our model," he said. "This is the third charter school that I've worked for in California, and it's the tightest-run ship."

The school has come under criticism for its unorthodox style of instruction and low standardized test scores.


Daily Breeze | from staff and news services

Saturday, March 31, 2007— The Los Angeles Unified School District has sued the county and every city redevelopment agency within its boundaries, alleging a shortfall in property tax funding for education that could reach $2.4 billion over the next 45 years, according to court papers obtained Friday.

The suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, asks that the county as well as 10 redevelopment agencies in Los Angeles, Carson, West Hollywood and other communities be ordered to pay more in property taxes to the school district and stop withholding the money in the future.

Bill Wynder, Carson's city attorney, had not seen the lawsuit when contacted Friday evening.

"I have not seen it, and I am not aware of the issues raised in it," Wynder said.

Los Angeles County collects property tax increment -- the difference between the value of property when the project area was established and its current assessed value -- and disperses it to other taxing agencies. The money is then used to help finance incentives to attract development to blighted areas.

Traditionally, school districts receive a slice of the money if their schools sit within the redevelopment area.

According to the suit, schools are entitled to a share of property tax revenues that are being diverted to nonschool redevelopment projects through accounting devices created by the Legislature called Educational Revenue Augmentation Funds.

The school district claims that for more than a decade, the county has retained some of the money that should have gone to the LAUSD, or given it instead to cities and special development districts.

County officials were not immediately available for comment because of the Cesar Chavez holiday.

The Carson redevelopment agency currently manages two project areas under a program designed to remove urban blight. Together, these areas cover 3,065 acres in the city.

The first area follows an L-shaped pattern in central and northwest Carson. The second area covers portions of east and south Carson.

Los Angeles Unified has schools in Carson, Gardena, Lomita and Rancho Palos Verdes.

▲smf notes: All politics being local, the Daily Breeze understandably makes this a story about Carson’s redevelopment; but it’s really about the LA City & County Community Redevelopment Agency and the Grand Avenue Project.


By Dan Whitcomb | Reuters

Fri. Mar 30 — LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hundreds of students, some waving Mexican flags or chanting in Spanish, walked out of Los Angeles-area schools on Friday to demand national and state holidays honoring migrant labor activist Cesar Chavez.

More than 650 students, mostly from heavily Latino neighborhoods of east Los Angeles, walked out of classes in a demonstration organized by the immigrant-rights group By Any Means Necessary, school officials said.

Two hundred other students walked out of schools in Orange and San Diego counties, south of Los Angeles. There were no reports of injuries or arrests and the protests ended peacefully.

Last year, thousands of students staged similar protests across Southern California, pouring onto a busy freeway and converging on City Hall. That demonstration came just weeks after huge marches in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities to demand amnesty for illegal immigrants as Congress debated an immigration-reform bill that ultimately failed.

Eight U.S. states, including California, and many counties and cities have holidays for Chavez, who died in 1993. Organizers of the walkout said the protesters wanted a U.S. national holiday and additional states to recognize him.

In California, Cesar Chavez Day is March 31, his birthday. State government offices and colleges observed the holiday this year by closing on Friday, but Los Angeles public schools were open -- which drew complaints by many protesting students.

"We're trying to get them to give us this holiday because Cesar Chavez helped our people a lot by marching for equal rights," 16-year-old high school student Corina Vigil said. "He believed in us, so now we're asking the school district to show they believe in us too."

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District said officials were aware of the planned protest and had asked students to stay in class.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Latino activist turned politician who, while serving in the California Legislature, co-wrote the law creating the Chavez state holiday, agreed.

"I think our kids should stay in school," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "I believe we can get a lot more information about Cesar Chavez and the contribution that he made to this great country by going to school, by learning about those contributions."

▲ Calling the Irony Police: Which holidays are observed in LAUSD is determined by collective bargaining. The teachers union determined whether or not to recognize Chavez Holiday – celebrating the union organizer – but instead they chose California Admission Day on Sept. 9th. Seeing so many of them are not being paid in the payroll snafu it amazes me that there wasn’t a work action Friday. - smf

► LAUSD MAY GAIN FUNDING: Bills would change ways state would split money
by Harrison Sheppard, Sacramento Bureau | LA Daily News

19 March 2007 – SACRAMENTO - Grappling with a public education system that desperately needs more money, California lawmakers are targeting new funding formulas designed to help Los Angeles Unified and other urban districts.

The bills come after landmark studies, released last week, found California schools from kindergarten through 12th grade need a top-

to-bottom overhaul and an additional $24 billion to $32 billion every year just to remain competitive with schools in other states.

"The report validated what a lot of us have already known: that it does take more resources to educate a poor child than a middle-class or high-income child," said Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles.

"That being said, at the end of the day, we as legislators in the Senate and Assembly, as well as the governor, will be tested. Ultimately it's a political decision, not an academic one."

But at the local level, Los Angeles Unified School District officials would be satisfied if they could just get a bigger piece of the existing pie for schools that are overcrowded and have more disadvantaged students.

Officials have long complained that state formulas shortchange the LAUSD, which is in the middle of a massive building program to relieve overcrowding and eliminate the need to operate schools on a year-round or multitrack basis.

DeLeon has authored a measure that would change state formulas for funding school operations to benefit districts with the highest number of impoverished and minority students.

Currently those formulas are based on average daily attendance.

DeLeon's bill would create a "weighted" formula that would attach varying funding levels to different types of students.

It would specifically give more funds to districts and schools with more minority and low-income students.

But some lawmakers, especially Republicans who tend to represent rural and suburban districts, are likely to be skeptical of proposals that shift more funds to urban districts.

Such proposals, they say, can harm suburban and rural schools that are doing a good job educating students.

Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, said the state already has categorical programs that provide more funds for some poor and minority students.

"At the same time, you've got to decide you don't want to punish people for doing a good job," Runner said.

Runner agreed that more money needs to be spent educating children who have language challenges or other obstacles to learning.

But he said race, ethnicity and economic status alone should not automatically mean a child or district needs that extra assistance.

"I think it's wrong just to say we need more money because these children are poor and of color," Runner said.

"If there are certain learning issues, like language, then I think that's a different issue. But I don't think it's just because of the socioeconomics (or) the minority status," he said.

Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has authored a bill that would provide Los Angeles and six other districts with more funds to operate year-round schools.

Under current law, when districts accept state grants for construction of schools, they lose grant funds toward extra costs of operating schools still on the multitrack system. The theory is that the new schools will relieve overcrowding at the multitrack schools, so extra operating funds will not be necessary.

But LAUSD officials say it takes three to five years to build a singLeonew school. Meanwhile, they say, existing schools continue to suffer from overcrowding, even though they lose the funds to deal with it.

The district expects to lose at least $70 million over the course of its school-building program because of the funding formula.

Superintendent David Brewer III, who was in Sacramento last week to testify in favor of Romero's bill, said $70 million is equivalent to giving the district's teachers a 1 percent raise.

"As a superintendent, when I have to reach into my general fund to pay that differential - the extra cost of operating a multitrack vs. a single-track school, it costs money," Brewer said.

"And that means I have to take it away from other things that are very important to running a school."

Some members of the Senate Education Committee expressed skepticism, noting that changing the formula would mean taking money away from other districts.

"If we give some districts more money, then it follows that some districts will get less money," said Chairman Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena.

Scott also has a bill that would alter formulas and base funding on monthly enrollment, rather than average daily attendance.

Tracking daily attendance, he said, burdens educators with too much paperwork and districts with high administrative costs.

A simpler measure would allow schools to dedicate employees' time to more important functions, he said. Such a change also could reduce penalties on districts that have higher absenteeism, such as LAUSD.

Scott's formula would be based on how many students are enrolled in a school, not how many regularly attend.

Another bill sought by LAUSD changes the formula for funding school construction and modernization projects that are now being financed with a $10.4 billion education bond approved by voters last year.

Under current formulas, districts that are expected to face declining enrollment in coming years, such as LAUSD, receive a lower level of funding.

But LAUSD officials said the district is already facing severe overcrowding, and the formula underestimates the need for funding of new projects.

A measure by Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, would alter that formula to lessen the role that reduced enrollment plays.

"It would definitely benefit LAUSD, but we believe it will also (help) some of the other large urban areas as well," Bass said. "Some of the new construction money is geared to support school districts where enrollment is increasing. L.A. Unified's enrollment is decreasing, but all of us know that L.A. Unified is severely overcrowded."

"The main point is to make sure Los Angeles and other urban areas, like San Diego and the Bay Area, get their fair share."

▲ MORE MONEY: Here are some of the bills pending in the state Legislature that would change state school-funding formulas, potentially to benefit Los Angeles Unified:

• SB 121 by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles: Districts that accept grants to build new schools lose state money for operating year-round campuses, even before the new schools open. The bill would let them keep the operations money.

• AB 179 by Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles: Would use a "weighted" formula to provide more funds to districts with more minority and low-income students.

• AB 1014 by Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles: Would reduce the size of funding cuts to districts with declining enrollment, including LAUSD.

By Dan Walters – Syndicated Sacramento Bee Columnist

Friday, March 30, 2007 — Los Angeles Unified is, by far, the state's largest school district. It has more than 700,000 students -- three-fourths of them Latino -- and is demonstrably one of the state's most troubled, with very low academic test scores and very high dropout rates.
This month, the district's board and United Teachers of Los Angeles, its most influential union, finalized a new contract calling for a 6 percent increase in teachers' salaries for one year, plus extra money to reduce class sizes.

Given the district's immense size, the cost of the contract will be hefty. LAUSD officials said the 6 percent raise will increase its salary costs by $240 million a year, the health care segment of the contract will cost another $60 million and class size reduction carries a $135 million-per-year price tag.

Some of the additional cost will be covered by projected increases in revenue from local property taxes and state aid, but the district's newly hired superintendent, David Brewer, said the contract will create a $213 million shortfall over three years -- not counting what salary boosts might cost in the other years of the agreement.

As Brewer and A.J. Duffy, the teachers union president, jointly announced the new contract, a reporter asked where they would find the money to finance it. "I don't know," the Los Angeles Times quoted Brewer in response. "Anybody else want to talk?" Later, Brewer assured reporters, "I think we will be able to find the money to do what we want to do."

The plain fact is that school trustees presumably elected to govern prudently have approved a legally binding contract that commits them to shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars more than they know they'll have.

One could dismiss such fiscal foolishness, of course, by adopting the everybody-does-it attitude, citing the federal and state governments' perennial deficits. But, as good parents constantly remind their children, just because everybody does it, it's still not good behavior.

Five days after the new LAUSD contract was ratified, the other shoe dropped. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that Los Angeles legislators have introduced a series of bills aimed at increasing the district's share of state school aid.

Assemblyman Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, for instance, has a measure to "weight" state funding formulas to direct more money into districts with high numbers of non-white and low-income students -- with LAUSD the most conspicuous beneficiary. And of course, the money would come from other districts since the school finance pot is, in any given year, a fixed sum.

While de León and others carrying bills to divert more money to LAUSD cite all sorts of rationales -- including, of course, the recently released foundation study on California schools' failings -- it's difficult to escape this cause-and-effect conclusion: The new teacher contract costs more than the district can muster, so Los Angeles' big legislative delegation, backed by union political muscle, would pay for it by taking money from other districts, their students and their teachers.

That's not to say, certainly, that the state's school aid is either sufficient or fairly distributed now. The foundation study made the case for massive reform, not only spending more money, but redirecting it to schools with the greatest needs and getting rid of the cumbersome "categorical aids" that ignore real priorities.

If the state's politicians were willing to undertake that infinitely difficult chore, a good starting place would be to declare a moratorium on legislation, such as the bills being pushed for LAUSD, that treats state school funds like pirate's booty to be plundered by those with the most guns.

The hearing in the court of appeal is scheduled for Monday, April 2, at 9:30 a.m.

The court of appeal is located in the Ronald Reagan State Office Building on the third floor, at 300 S. Spring Street in LA. The hearing is open to the public.

The appeal will be heard by a three-judge panel.

This time the mayor's (Appellant's) side will get to go first and last; the Respondents go in the middle. It will be similar to the trial court hearing, although somewhat more formal.
This is the only action on the court's calendar, it will probably start right away, Security at the courthouse is tight, arrive early!

The plaintiffs believe we have the facts and the law on our side - we are confident that the action was decided correctly in the Superior Court and in the strengths of our argument and our legal team. We understand that the law is a surprising thing and that our adversaries are strong and capable of the unexpected.

The issues haven't changed much since the trial court, but we'll just have to see how it goes. - smf

Map to Ronald Reagan State Office Building/Courthouse

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Register.
• Vote.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
• In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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